Nisqually Christmas Hike, 2013

Written on September 23, 2014

The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite places to bird watch in the South Sound area. I never tire of watching the seasons change in this beautiful wetland or awaiting seasonal migrants to appear in the seasonal grasslands and salty tidelands. Here are some of the birds I saw, minus the Northern Harriers, Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles (too fast and too far away).

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Kalaloch Beach, Washington Coast November 2013

Written on September 22, 2014

In November of last year, I drove to the coast for a crisp, socked in afternoon. I can almost smell the surf from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Wupatki National Monument, The Grand Canyon and Sedona

Written on August 28, 2014

In October 2013, I was invited to give a lecture about my work to students and faculty at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. It was a wonderful experience. NAU has well cared for facilities and Flagstaff and the surrounding area is an adventurer’s dream. Here are images from an overnight to the Grand Canyon, including Wupatki National Monument and a day hike to Sedona, a New Age Mecca.

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The Grand Canyon at the South Rim. We arrived in the late afternoon and stayed through sunset. The light was beautiful. We returned early the next morning and hiked several miles along the rim, taking the shuttle to various points of interest. It was so beautiful. Every turn in the path revealed even more spectacular views. The bright, flat light and slight haze made taking photographs difficult, however.

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The following day’s hike:

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Sedona at one of the Vortexes. Yes, there were white girls doing yoga on top of giant rocks. Yes, I laughed.

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Camping outside of phoenix in a beautiful State Park. Sunrise over Saguaros!! Magic.

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Old Fort Niagara

Written on January 12, 2014

While in Buffalo, I visited Old Fort Niagara with my Grandmother and her long-time, live-in boyfriend, Gordon. I hadn’t been to Old Fort Niagara since a field trip in 4th grade, of which I have fairly vivid memories. I believe I even built a popsicle stick replica of the grounds as a school project.  It was fascinating to see the Fort again and once again learn about its rich history.

The Fort is located at the mouth of the Niagara River, on the shore of Lake Ontario outside of Youngstown, New York.  First held by the indigenous Iroquois Nation, a Fort was erected by the French in the 1720s after nearly 50 year of intense fighting with the natives. Over the course of the next century and a half, it played a pivotal role granting  and protecting trade access throughout the Great Lake region. Control of the Fort bounced between the French and British, later serving as an outpost for the American Revolution. The Fort was expanded upon and later used as a training facility during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I. During WWII, the Fort was used as a POW camp for 1,200 German Soldiers captured in North Africa. It was then made into an  emergency housing facility for returning US veterans. The US Army finally deactivated the Fort in 1963. According to Wikipedia, the “Bottoms” area is still in operation as a base for the US Coast Guard, making the Fort one of the longest continuously run military bases in the United States, from 1726- present day. An in-depth history is given on the Fort’s website here.

The treasure of Old Fort Niagara is the “French Castle,” erected on the site by the French in 1726, though the Fort had already been established and held by the French for the past 50 years. Originally a trading post, it was later expanded to include defenses against the British. And then, of course, there are the British reenactors! With muskets!

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The drawbridge had been recently renovated and was very impressive. The moat would have been the entire Fort’s latrine. Imagine trying to swim in that.

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Grandma and a very young, nervous reenactor.

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Apparently, the Fort is haunted. The most famous spirit is a headless ghost that supposedly haunts the French Castle.

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The French Castle is truly gorgeous– renovated to show the various historical uses it has served over the past 250 years.

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If you ever find yourself in the Niagara Falls area, I highly recommend this jewel of a historical site. It’s well worth the trip. On clear, sunny days, you can see Toronto across the Lake. The surrounding waters are also popular for sail-boating. Seeing tiny ships out in the water from the walls of the Fort give further context to how important this area once was for trade– it was truly a gateway to the west!

Buffalo City Hall

Written on November 20, 2013

At the beginning of September, I shuffled off to Buffalo to visit my grandmothers, old friends and other assorted family members. I had a variety of adventures, including touring City Hall, re-visiting Old Fort Niagara (hadn’t been there since 4th grade) and ghost hunting at one of the most haunted sites in the country, Rolling Hills Asylum. We’ll start with Buffalo’s beautiful Art Deco masterpiece, City Hall. Though I have been inside several times, this was the first official tour I’d ever had. I forced my grandmother to come with me. The free tour was through Preservation Buffalo and was packed with people visiting from all over the country and abroad. There were at least 2o people in the group, and we were some of the only “locals.”

Here’s an excellent video from Buffalo Tours giving you a better sense of the history than I could ever give about the building:

Getting older, man. It makes you appreciate the places you’re from. I used to watch concerts on Thursday afternoons in the shadow of this building. Hell, I saw Echo & The Bunnymen in the square, 10,000 Maniacs…

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What I appreciate most about City Hall is its steadfast refusal to let history be forgotten. Every decorative element of the building recognizes the contributions of its citizens and their dedication to labor and industry. Engineering, industry, agriculture, and academic, scholarly pursuits are all depicted in stonework and murals throughout the building.

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The tile mosaic patterns on the arched ceiling are symbolic of the Iroquois Nation, which shared the shores of Lake Eerie and Ontario.

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William de Leftwich Dodge, an accomplished muralist, painted several murals in City Hall in 1931. This one depicts the relationship of Buffalo to nearby Canada. Here’s a great (old) website that goes into the details of each of Dodge’s murals. Truly fascinating. Unfortunately, they were lit exceedingly poorly as the city does not have its own City Hall on a preservation plan.

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This plaque is dedicated to fallen Polish Soldiers, reading, “This plaque was presented to the people of the City of Buffalo by the Polish American Citizens Organization in memory of their fellow brothers – prisoners of war – massacred by Soviet Russia in Katyn Forest in the Spring of 1940.”

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Four statues in the lobby represent the characters of good citizenship– virtue, diligence, service and fidelity. These are absolutely stunning and dramatically lit from below, casting judicious shadows.

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A bust of Grover Cleveland, who first served as Buffalo City Mayor before being elected President several years later.

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Gorgeous, intricate brass work on the elevators in the lobby.

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Apparently my Great Grandfather worked for Otis Elevators– my grandma was excited to see this detail in this restored car.

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Next stop was the Mayor’s office, which felt rather cool and not very well decorated. Apparently, the current Mayor loves aquariums, so he had one installed in the office.

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On the thirteenth floor, we came to the gorgeous Council Chamber. Using an Iroquois design, a stunning stained glass sunburst dominates the room, diffusing the light, acting as a blessing but also a reminder that business conducted in this room is under the watchful gaze of the heavens and all eternity. Below the sunburst, carved into the wall, the phrase “The People’s Councilors Reflect the People’s Will” appears as a daily reminder to those who enter the chamber of their purpose. The woodwork is inlaid with walnut and carved symbols of wildlife decorate doors and paneling. Pillars surrounding the chamber list the characteristics needed in ethical government fortitude, philosophy, knowledge, industry, achievement, charity, patriotism, prudence, wisdom, and concordia. Apparently, this is one of the finest city council chambers in the United States, so acoustically balanced that microphones are unnecessary.

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At the top of City Hall is the observation deck, boasting one of the best views of the city skyline, as well as the shipyards and Great Lakes. Unfortunately, it was pouring when I visited, so I didn’t get the majestic panoramas I had hoped for.

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This kind of history is truly lacking on the West Coast, this certain kind of blue collar industrious nature and fortitude. It makes me miss Buffalo, snow and all.

Staircase, Olympic National Park

Written on November 13, 2013

A few days after returning from Hurricane Ridge, I went for a small day hike in another area of the Olympic National Park, Staircase, which skirts the Skokomish River. Densely forested, with gorgeous mosses blanketing the forest floor and surrounding trees, I hadn’t visited the area in several years. A beautiful new suspension bridge has been installed after a winter storm washed the old one away several years ago. The bridge completes a nice and easy hiking loop which crossing the river and follows its banks there and back again. I was accompanied by friend Avi, who gladly took me up on a dare involving touching the Dog Vomit Slime Mold. Yes, this is a thing that totally exists and yes, it is absolutely disgusting, which makes me want to poke at it with sticks all the more. We also saw a ton of gorgeous Indian Pipe which is otherworldly in appearance and has many medicinal uses.

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Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Written on November 13, 2013

I can’t believe it’s been two months since my last post. I am totally blog back-logged. September and October were some of the busiest months I’ve ever had. Classes started at the end of September, I currently have a solo exhibition up at WSU Vancouver showcasing some rad new prints, I was invited to speak about my work at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and on Friday, I give another lecture/demonstration at WSU Vancouver.

I have thousands of photos sift through and then edit from the summer/early fall still, let alone a trip to Buffalo to visit my grandmothers and brother, and a small excursion to the Grand Canyon.

Suppose let us begin with the end of my several day Pacific Northwest getaway, at the very end of July. From Shi Shi beach, I went to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park– from the shining sea to purple mountains majesty in less than a day. That, my friends, is the kind of magic that only happens west of the great Cascades. If you can dip your toes in the ocean, and within 24 hours walk those toesies into a snow patch on top of a mountain in the middle of summer, you might be in one of the most splendid National Parks in the country.

After I left Shi-Shi in the afternoon, I hiked back to my car and left for Port Angeles where the entrance to Hurricane Ridge is located. Hurricane Ridge is one of the most popular places in the Olympics, offering stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, which I can gaze upon from afar almost any day from Olympia as they border the view of the Puget Sound. It was pretty amazing to stand on top of those mountains with that particular view in mind. I made it into the park in that evening, thankful that the majority of the sites in the campground were first come first serve. I picked a spot, popped my tent, started a fire and made dinner. I promptly passed out after I ate.

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I must have gotten up around 5AM. I tore camp apart, packed my car, and was on the winding road up the mountain by 5:30, not another car to be passed for hours. I enjoyed having the sunrise to myself, shared only with the multitude of deer I passed along the way. I stopped at several paved viewpoints, but my goal was to get to the top of the mountain so I could have the Hurricane Ridge trail all to myself, the greedy, aloof hiker I am. When I reached the Ridge parking lot, I was the only car parked in the vast concrete lot. On the hike out around noon, I was incredibly thankful I had made it there so early, as all the wildlife had decidedly hidden themselves from the throngs of loud, gaudy groups of tourists ascending the mountain as I was leaving.

So here, then, are a series of photographs of my early morning hike up Hurricane Ridge, amongst wildflowers and marmots.

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